Azerbaijan Leader Raises National Flag in Karabakh Capital: Statement

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev raised his country’s flag in the main city of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, in his first visit there since Baku retook control of the mountainous region in an offensive that led to the exodus of most ethnic Armenians.

It was Aliyev’s first visit to Karabakh during his two-decade rule.

“President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has raised the National Flag of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the city of Khankendi and delivered a speech,” Aliyev’s office said in a statement.

Armenia calls the city Stepanakert.

Baku’s September lightning offensive ended three decades of Armenian separatist rule in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The vast majority of the estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians that had been living in the territory fled across the border to Armenia.

Aliyev’s office said he visited several other places and towns in Karabakh, showing pictures of the longtime leader in military attire on his knees kissing the Azerbaijani flag before it was raised.

He also visited a reservoir, with photographs published by Baku showing the authoritarian leader in sunglasses looking at the water and surrounding mountains.

Aliyev became president of Azerbaijan in 2003, succeeding his father Heydar Aliyev.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh since the dying days of the Soviet Union.

The neighbors went to war twice over the territory: in the 1990s and in 2020.

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